Buying non-processed dog food – Dog Nutrition Part III

In this blog, you will learn how to buy non-processed dog food! I’ll answer the following questions: Where do you buy these raw foods? How do you decide which type and how much? How do you introduce raw food to your pet? What are the cost comparisons? Are there any risks to feeding raw?

So far in my previous two blogs in the series, you learned about why processed dog food is unhealthy and then, what are the non-processed alternative dog food options?

Where to begin buying non-processed raw dog food to ensure proper nutrition?

Karen Schiavone founded and has operated Barkside Bistro in Toronto for a number of years. I have been purchasing high-quality frozen commercial raw dog food from her at Barkside since 2014. On Karen’s website, she indicates that her mission is to “strive to offer products that have been carefully selected, with consciousness towards environmental sustainability, and ethically responsible decisions.”

So I trusted that the brands from Barkside Bistro were sourced from companies that Ms. Shiavone personally vetted to be ethical, both environmentally and in their farming practices. And what I learned from Ms. Schiavone, is that a dog’s full nutritional requirements are obtained through 90% meat and organ content, with 10% bone content per meal. When you search online, you can see that most commercial raw dog food products contain this ratio.

Ms. Schiavone also obtains a health history for all new clients’ dogs, so that she can recommend the appropriate commercial raw food for the given dog’s health. Based on the dog’s medical and dietary needs, she also discusses possible supplements.

I don’t recommend buying raw content from the grocers or your butcher for your dog!

The reason I don’t recommend that you prepare your own raw dog food is because you will need to ensure that you are formulating your dog’s meals with the proper nutritional balance. And that can make it more complicated to do it yourself! By buying high-quality commercial frozen raw dog food, as I do, you can easily ensure that your dog will receive all the necessary nutrition he needs.

When buying non-processed raw dog food….

There is no harm with combining the B.A.R.F and Prey methods of feeding your dog

It does no harm combining the B.A.R.F. and Prey method philosophy to ensure that your dog is getting all the fresh raw nutrients she requires to be healthy. Be sure to read my previous nutrition blog to understand these terms.

So I regularly buy brands from Barkside Bistro that have fruit and vegetables already mixed into the raw patties. The brand I usually choose is Congo that is based out of Newmarket, Ontario (a town that’s part of the greater Toronto area–GTA). I like this brand because I can buy a bulk volume that reduces the cost per patty, and is therefore more economical to feed my dog.

How to make sure you are feeding your dog a fully balanced raw diet:

I won’t go into all the various options that are available for you to purchase. My main point is this. You can easily serve a fully balanced raw diet to your dog by buying commercial frozen raw dog food.

And the best way I recommend you research which brands to buy is to find a local premium pet supply store. Check out their reputation online, and interview their management to determine if they are doing it right! By this method you can discern whether the business is sourcing out high-quality frozen raw food. This will help you choose the right food – just as I have done!

Often such stores are independents, not usually national franchise or chain brands. And these types of stores exist in most North American cities and likely in other big cities around the world. Hopefully, you will have your version of a Barkside Bistro near you! Because with a local retailer, I know that I’m talking to the person who has personally vetted the companies that produce the products that she sells.

When buying raw dog food…choose which proteins you will introduce first

The other thing to consider is which proteins to initially buy. Roxy could never digest chicken or beef. (She was not able to digest these proteins in any form, whether cooked, raw, or even in processed kibble–which I initially fed her before I learned).

So I chose to start her on raw food with Lamb because she was already eating freeze-dried lamb protein. I also chose turkey (to provide a second protein) because Ms. Schiavone indicated that turkey is an easy-to-digest protein for most dogs.

Roxy was able to digest these proteins without any problems! But it’s best to consult your local pet supply store expert. They will take into consideration your dog’s digestion and health history. And they know which proteins are easier to digest for a dog who will be starting on a raw food diet.

Chicken and Beef are the most common proteins to cause digestion sensitivities in dogs

I learned from my vet many years ago that chicken is the most common protein to cause digestive sensitivities in dogs. And Ms. Schiavone, at Barkside Bistro, indicated that beef protein also commonly provokes adverse digestive reactions.

Avoid serving too much raw poultry

If you decide to serve poultry, you may notice that your dog’s stools become too solid. The solid stool can either be all crumbly, or your dog may be constipated and unable to pass a stool. In such cases, this is likely because you are serving too much poultry over all. This is because poultry proteins like chicken, duck, and turkey contain a larger ratio of bone content to muscle and organs, versus the non-poultry proteins. So simply changing your dog’s daily menu to serve less poultry per week will take care of this problem.

Note: this problem with poultry applies to fresh/frozen raw food only…not the freeze dried, air-dried foods.

For optimum digestion, serve more than one protein

The proteins that I serve Roxy are duck, lamb, turkey, pork, and sometimes salmon. It’s important to serve your dog more than one source of protein, and to rotate them so that your dog’s digestive system doesn’t become intolerant of that one protein. (This is true even when dogs are on processed food.)

So, simply start your dog’s raw food journey by buying 2 proteins that your dog can already digest, and faithfully rotate them!

How do you switch your dog from his current diet when buying non-processed dog food?


The first rule is NEVER serve processed kibble with raw food! This is because doing so can damage your dog’s digestive system. Here’s one article that explains why. https://www.dogsnaturallymagazine.com/can-you-mix-raw-dog-food-with-kibble/


I learned from Barkside Bistro how to do this. For my clients that went raw from serving kibble, I recommended they simply feed their dogs their customary kibble for breakfast and dinner. And then, as of the next morning (12-16 hours later), they served only the thawed fresh raw food for breakfast and onwards. My clients had no trouble with introducing raw food!


Barkside Bistro also explained how to do this for Roxy. In my case, Roxy was eating only freeze-dried raw food when I learned there were also fresh (frozen) raw options. So it was an easy transition for her. I just began serving the fresh- thawed food by itself immediately, and she was able to digest this new food without any problem!

What is the cost of fresh (frozen) raw food?

The high-quality brands I buy from Barkside bistro are Congo, Carnovora, and Totally Raw . They each contain 8 x 8oz patties, which are priced from approximately $2.00 to $3.00 Canadian per patty. The range depends on the market price of the chosen protein at the time. To feed Roxy costs about $2.50 Canadian in total per day.

Fresh raw (frozen) dog food is typically sold in these packages of 8 x 8oz patties. Some brands, however, market their food in plastic tubs. And you scoop out what you need. I prefer the patties because they are more economical.

How much should I feed my dog?

The feeding guides on most commercial raw food websites recommend serving raw food as follows: the weight of the food per day should equal 2% of your dog’s ideal body weight. Feeding based on “ideal” weight will help you aim at the right quantity for your dog, whether they need to maintain, reduce, or, in rare cases, to gain weight.

How much fresh (frozen) raw food do I serve my 15 lb mini poodle?

In Roxy’s case, I feed her to maintain her 7.3kgs (approximately 15lbs). So, based on that formula, she needs to be fed 5 ounces of each 8oz patty per day. However, Roxy has a very high metabolism! So I found that to maintain her ideal weight of 7.3kgs, she actually needed 5.6oz a day. I serve her 2.80oz twice a day.

When buying non-processed dog food … safety is easy!

Safely handle your dog’s raw food

To honour safety protocols for raw food, I have a food scale dedicated only to weighing Roxy’s raw food. So even though her scale tray gets sanitized daily in the dishwasher, I keep it expressly for her, to be doubly safe.

See the food scale I use to weigh the raw dog food for a single meal:

scale used to weight the raw dog food for accurate serving measurement.

So what does commercial frozen raw food look like Straight out of the package?

This is what frozen raw dog food looks like.

This is a frozen raw patty of the Congo brand. This is their Lamb dinner. It contains muscle, organs, and crushed bones, as well as cranberries. Sometimes there is also spinach.

An example of how to thaw raw do food.

The night before I serve a fresh patty, I place it in its frozen state into a container, so it can thaw overnight.

This shows how  to store thawed raw dog food.

I leave the sealed container to thaw overnight on the counter, ready for Roxy’s breakfast when I wake up. Or, if I am going to serve it the following day, I put the frozen patty in the fridge. Note: in the summer, if you do not have air conditioning, only thaw in the fridge, not on the counter. Note: some proteins thaw faster than others.

Here’s what raw food looks like when it’s in Roxy’s bowl ready to be served:

Raw dog food should be finely chopped up when served to the dog.

I cut up the serving into tiny bits, even for large dogs when they board with me. Most dogs (certainly Roxy and my boarders) will swallow big portions without chewing, because they can’t wait to eat this fresh raw food! When they gulp down too fast instead of chewing it, some dogs may cough up particles. Cutting up the food into small bits takes care of this problem!

How do the other types of raw food compare in cost?

how much is freeze-dried or air-dried raw food?

The one downside to choosing high quality freeze-dried and air-dried dog food products, such as Stella and Chewy or Ziwi Peak, is that they can be expensive. These types of foods generally cost about $30-$40 Canadian for a 150z bag. If I were to serve Roxy (who is 15 pounds) any of these foods full time, she would consume an entire bag in 6 days. With the estimated average cost of $35 per bag, it would be about $5.83 Canadian/day. But don’t reject this food or any of the other raw food options just yet because they will set you back more than processed food. Please read on. Once we discuss all the options for better food, then I will tell you why the extra cost is worth it!!

An example of what the Stella and Chewy raw dinner patties.

An example of what the Stella and Chewy freeze-dried raw patties look like.

An example of what the Stella and Chewy raw dinner patties look like after adding water

An example of what the Stella and Chewy raw dinner patties look like after adding water.

An example of ZiwiPeak raw dog food

Ziwi Peak air-dried raw dog food with Green Lipped Mussel.

Wondering about the cost of cooking meals when buying non-processed dog food?

How does the price of home cooked meals compare ?

The cost of buying and preparing home made food is likely comparable to buying fresh (frozen) raw commercial dog food.

What’s the cost to feed the K9-Natural high quality canned food?

In my research, I found a good variety of flavours are available in Canada via the small (60z) can size, which costs about $4/Canadian per can. And there are limited flavours offered in the larger volume (13oz) size. But I can honestly say, the cost for this specific canned food is truly justified.

Here is how I save on this excellent canned food. Since my dog is 15 lbs, she needs to be fed 1-3/4 of the $4 (6 oz) can daily, at the total cost of $7 Canadian. However, if you can get the flavours you want, why not choose the larger volume can for about $6.30 each? In Roxy’s case that is 3/4 of a large can, which means $4.72/day, significantly reducing the price!

When you worry about the affordability of buying non-processed healthy dog food

So, even if you agree that non-processed dog food offers superior nutrition to processed dog food, you worry about the cost. It is true; healthier alternative dog food may indeed cost more than processed food (especially if you have a large dog), but consider this:


Buying non-processed dog food can save on veterinarian bills!

So here it is….apart from the obvious benefits of a more energetic, fit dog who will likely live longer, your investment in high-quality dog food can prevent expensive health issues!

Why not budget for this superior nutritious diet for your dog, instead of having to pay for veterinarian services and medications that are more likely if your dog spends a lifetime eating processed food? Not to mention that your animal will not enjoy his frequent visits to the vet! He would rather be running and playing with you!

The potential risks when buying non-processed raw dog food:

Referencing Petmd.com, I earlier discussed the benefits of feeding raw food in part II of my dog nutrition series. Now, I will cover the potential risks a raw diet can present.

  1. Increased health risks to humans from handling raw meat and everything it touches
  2. If bones are included, fractured teeth, penetration of the digestive tract, and gastrointestinal impaction are all possible as well.
  3. Potential nutritional imbalances due to the wrong content ratio.

1. Bacteria:

Avoiding risk from bacteria comes down to good food hygiene management. The same hygienic management applies to all raw meat that you handle, whether for you or for your pet. Granted, if you are a vegetarian, then you would not be in such a routine. But it’s pretty simple: keep the meat frozen or refrigerated, wash and disinfect all counter-top surfaces and sinks where you prepare the food. Plus, wash all bowls and utensils, and of course your hands. This rule applies to all freeze-dried and air-dried raw food too.

Dr. Becker challenges the American Veterinary Medical Association’s argument that handling raw meat for our pets is more dangerous to human health than handling raw meat for human consumption.

2. Bones:

I have already discussed how I buy only high-quality commercial raw dog food that contains properly crushed bones mixed into the food. So professionally crushed bones in the best brands do not pose the risks mentioned.

In terms of raw bones for your dog to chew on, I only buy commercially packaged duck neck (by Congo) that is chopped in the right dimensions for Roxy’s jaw and body size. I don’t give her butcher cut bones. Consult your premium pet supply store for suitable raw animal bones for your dog’s size to avoid choking. These premium dog-specific bones will also be easy for your dog to chew and digest.

It can be tempting to pick up a bone from your butcher, but please be aware of the dangers! Whole bones from the butcher can cause an animal to choke and can break teeth. However, you can give these bones if you use common sense. First, be sure to provide a suitable size bone for the size of the dog. Also, the bone should not be too small and thin relative to his heft and jaw size. Otherwise, there is a chance he can swallow it whole and choke.

3. potential nutritional imbalances of serving a raw diet due to incorrect ratio

Raw foods must have the correct ratio of muscle, organ, and bone. If these are out of balance over an extended time, you can cause problems for your dog. This risk would only be present if you fed raw “people” food, such as meat from a butcher.

To avoid the hassle and risk in getting the ratio wrong, just buy high-quality commercial frozen, freeze-dried, or air-dried raw dog food that already includes all the correctly balanced nutritional ingredients.

What are the safe bones?

I buy raw frozen duck neck bones!

You can find other high quality brands that sell packaged animal bone. However, these are the duck neck raw bones that I buy:

This is a photo of the Congo Neck raw bone package.

This what the raw duck neck bones look like in the packaging.

This is what a single frozen duck neck bone looks like.

I learned from Ms. Schiavone at Barkside Bistro that I can serve the raw duck neck bones to Roxy frozen. By serving the bone frozen, it takes Roxy longer to chew it. And it allows her to enjoy slowly thawing the bone in her mouth before biting on it. So this becomes an activity for her to have fun!

Important rules to go by when you give your dog a bone:

Always supervise your dog while he chews a bone!

You must always supervise the dog while he chews his raw bone. As well, it is imperative you know he will respond when you say “drop it”. This can be a matter of life and death!

It’s super Important to train your dog to “drop it” on cue

To train him, say “drop it” while showing him a desirable treat in your hand, and give him the highly valued treat or toy in exchange when he drops the item that is in his mouth. If he doesn’t drop the item, simply say “uh oh” (never scold him). Then be sure to leave an even higher-valued food or toy on the floor so he will eventually drop the item in his mouth to get the the better item. Repeat this until your dog reliably drops whatever item he has in his mouth. This may take several training sessions.

But for dogs that have not yet mastered the skill to drop something they love (such as a raw animal bone) on cue, then it would be wise to avoid giving your dog any choking hazard object like a raw bone, any chew stick, or toy that can be swallowed. If your dog is a good candidate to safely chew bones, be sure to only give your dog raw bones….never cooked bones.

It is very dangerous to give any cooked bones to your dog sourced from any animal–bones must be raw!

Never give your dog cooked bones!! So although you might want to indulge your dog with cooked scraps of leftover rib or chicken bones, cooked animal bones of any kind can seriously harm your dog!

Dr. Becker explains why cooked bones are dangerous.

How I trained Roxy to enjoy her bone safely!


Roxy has her favourite cozy spot in a comfy large crate that I have in my living room. Her crate has a soft dog bed permanently inside. And I make use of the crate when I give Roxy a raw bone. I place a towel or mat to completely cover the dog bed inside the crate.

Roxy is trained to go inside her crate to wait for the bone. Then I give her the bone and close the crate door. I close it so Roxy knows that she is not allowed to chew the bone outside of the crate. This method contains the bacteria specifically to the towel or mat in that crate, so raw meat and bone cannot contaminate anywhere else in the house.

Once she has finished eating the bone, I let her out of the crate. Then I fold up and remove the towel or mat and place it either directly in the washing machine or in a safe, hygienic place in my laundry room for the next load of laundry.

One more thing about feeding your dog raw food……..

Emergency veterinarians may not allow any raw food

Over the years of working with dogs, I had heard that many emergency veterinarians do not allow the pet parent to bring any type of raw food to feed their pet while he is in the hospital.

Two emergency veterinarian hospitals in Toronto do not allow any raw food

I wanted to find out if this “no raw food” policy was still in place in emergency veterinarian hospitals. So recently I called two emergency clinics in central Toronto: the Central Toronto Veterinarian Referral Clinic , and the Veterinarian Emergency Clinic and Referral Centre . Both hospitals confirmed that they do not allow any raw food into the hospital. But they said that people can bring in any kind of cooked or processed food.

Some local non-emergency veterinarian clinics do allow Ziwi Peak to be served to dogs in the clinic

For example, my veterinarian, Dr. Avery’s clinic does permit clients to bring ZiwiPeak food for their dogs who come in for any day procedures, such as teeth cleaning, spaying, neutering, or any other procedure that non-emergency veterinarians do. This is so your dog can have a snack after they recover. They need some nourishment since they have been fasting from the night before. (His clinic does not provide overnight hospitalization).

Make a back-up food plan for the unlikely emergency hospital stay

As you can see, if you buy non-processed dog food, it’s important to make a back-up plan menu consisting of high nutrition that is not raw food, just in case your dog needs to remain in an emergency veterinarian hospital overnight.

My back-up menu for Roxy would be to bring cans of the high-quality K9-Natural canned food along with some cooked turkey to provide her with some real meat to mix in with the canned food. (Roxy can not digest chicken or beef).

Find out what’s on Roxy’s menu?

Footnote: Please note that I am not a certified dog nutritionist. The advice I write about in this series about dog nutrition is based on my personal research in my quest to serve the healthiest food possible to my dog Roxy. As a result, I have been coaching countless clients during the past 15 years with the knowledge I have gained not only about nutrition but also in respect to all the other aspects that I discuss in my blog.

Yours in better dog care, Judy.

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